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Dying of thirst? Try turtle blood

Jan 1, 2003

The health benefits of drinking raw turtle blood were put to the test recently by a group of fishermen adrift in the Pacific for a month. The seven Nicaraguans lost power on their 33-foot boat and drifted nearly 600 miles out to sea before being picked up by a merchant ship Jan. 5.

Despite running out of water early in their voyage, the men stayed completely healthy because of their ability to capture turtles and drink their blood. The men surprised the crew of the merchant ship by scrambling up the pilot ladder unaided, unusual for adrift sailors who are typically weak and severely fatigued.

The Nicaraguans reported to the crew of the Norwegian chemical tanker Jo Elm that they had drifted 575 miles from their homeport of San Juan Del Sur. The tanker crew spotted a white flag pinned to the wheelhouse roof and diverted to offer assistance.

Blood from turtles and birds have proven to be a reliable source of hydration for centuries by adrift sailors. Fish blood, on the other hand, shouldn't be consumed.

"Fish blood is too osmotically heavy, too concentrated in salts and proteins, to be a source of hydration," said Dr. Daniel Carlin of WorldClinic in Boston, a medical service for sailors and adventure travelers. Others have had success eating fish eyeballs and drinking cerebrospinal fluid, as Steve Callahan did on his 76-day ordeal in a raft, described in his book Adrift.


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